Diplomacy

Haiti in Crisis

Struggling with poor governance, violence, and ongoing economic crises, can new leadership steer Haiti toward stability?

Image credit: Shutterstock / Everett Collection

Since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, Haiti has been in the hands of armed groups that have taken control of large parts of the country.

Now, in an attempt to restore stability, Fritz Bélizaire was appointed the country’s new prime minister at the end of April by four of the seven members of the Transitional Presidential Council (TPC).

The TPC, created following the resignation of Ariel Henry as prime minister earlier this year, aims to restore the country’s antiquated state institutions and constitutional government. It also aims to hold free and fair elections.

Violence surged following Henry’s announcement of postponing the country’s general elections until August 2025, with his decision to remain in office sparking outrage.

Gangs in Port-au-Prince have united like never before, with the clear objective of ousting him from power, placing Haiti in crisis once again.

Haiti has not held elections since Moïse was assassinated in July 2021.

Before him, Belizaire, who had served as Minister of Sports between 2006 and 2011, has the monumental challenge of achieving stable governance in the midst of suffocating violence.

Haiti: Criminal Chaos

Gang violence in the country reflects terrifying figures, with at least 1,554 deaths between January and March this year, according to a report by the UN Human Rights Office.

The figures recorded in the first quarter of 2024 are on track to reach or even surpass those of 2023, with 4,451 killed, according to the March report.

The document describes an unlivable daily situation, with recurrent sexual assaults on women, forced recruitment of children as young gang members and hostage-taking as a mechanism to collect ransom payments.

A Humans Rights Watch bulletin in March of this year described the situation in the country as criminal chaos.

In the report, the non-profit organization quoted an anonymous senior police official as saying that there are no state authorities, as all those left are criminals. Will Bélizaire be able to turn this situation around?

Bélizaire’s security challenges

Bélizaire has a difficult scenario in the face of the strength shown by the gang violence, which controls 80% of the Haitian capital, according to the United Nations.

In March, armed groups attacked police stations and prisons, causing the escape of more than 3,500 inmates from the National Penitentiary of Port-au-Prince, according to a press release from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The strength of the gangs is such that they even tried to take over the Port-au-Prince airport on March 4, something that did not happen thanks to the fact that the facilities were defended by police and soldiers.

Aiming to curb the violence and stabilize Haiti, the United Nations Security Council approved a new Kenyan-led international police mission to the country in October 2023.

At the time of writing this report, Kenya planned to deploy about 200 of the 1,000 police it plans to send to Haiti this month. There is no precise date yet for the full deployment of the troops.

The African country is leading a seven-nation security mission at an estimated cost of USD600 million. As part of this mission, Canada has sent 70 members of its armed forces to Jamaica to train personnel from Caribbean countries who will be sent to Haiti.

In total, Jamaica, Belize and the Bahamas plan to send 330 troops.

Meanwhile, the US government has sent civilian contractors and supplies to Haiti to prepare for the arrival of the Kenyan-led mission.

These contractors will be responsible, among other things, for establishing a base of operations for the troops being sent to the country.

The success of this mission is essential for the new government to begin to lay the foundations for a stable administration, otherwise further violence could lead to his resignation, as has already happened with Henry.

Economy in the midst of a humanitarian crisis

Haiti, with a population of approximately 11.5 million, faces dire circumstances due to widespread violence and political instability. Around 5.5 million people require humanitarian assistance, prompting a response from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which aims to provide USD674 million in aid to 3.6 million individuals, a 12% increase from 2023.

Given this context, a functioning economy seems nearly impossible, with Haiti’s GDP per capita at a meager USD1,694, among the lowest in the Americas.

Remittances serve as the primary source of foreign exchange, underscoring the economic challenges such as limited job opportunities and insufficient investment in key sectors.

Inadequate infrastructure further hampers economic development, with poor road networks, limited electricity access, and unreliable telecommunications hindering productivity and driving up costs for businesses.

Addressing these infrastructure gaps is crucial for attracting investment and fostering long-term growth. Moreover, Haiti’s susceptibility to natural disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods, poses significant challenges, causing widespread devastation and disrupting economic activities.

Despite these challenges, opportunities exist for economic diversification, particularly in sectors like agriculture, tourism, and renewable energy.

Investing in education is also essential to empower citizens and build a more resilient and prosperous future. However, stabilizing the country’s violent and unstable political situation is paramount to achieving progress.

Addressing these deficits and making strategic investments can lay the foundation for a stable and prosperous future for Haiti.

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